Presently in California if a police officer thinks that a person is driving under the influence of a substance other than alcohol, the officer will have a trained Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) come to the scene to evaluate whether the person has any indicators for the use of drugs as well as state the classification of drug suspected. If the officer suspects drugged driving, the driver will be arrested and a urine or blood sample will be requested of the driver.
NEW PROPOSED LAW
This law may soon change. SB 1462 is being proposed by California Senator Huff and sponsored by various law enforcement agencies. “Sadly, we’ve become a nation of self-medicating, careless people,” Huff said. “The public is naïve in understanding how dangerous our roads are made by people who are abusing opiates, meth and cannabis.” If passed, SB 1462 will allow police officers who have probable cause to suspect reckless or suspicious driving and the driver has failed Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), the office can use a hand held machine that will swab the inside of the driver’s cheek. Once swabbed, the machine will test for the presence of drugs, including cannabis, opiates, meth, and pain medications. If passed, the oral swabs will not replace blood tests.
CHANGING PLAYING FIELD
This new law will dramatically change the playing field for DUI arrests and prosecutions. More people will be subject to arrest based upon the contents of their mouth at the time of arrest. What is in a person’s mouth does not automatically indicate what substances are in a person’s blood stream. For instance, let’s say a person ate a poppy seed bagel in the early morning hours and gets pulled over for not properly signaling a lane change. The officer then notices that the person has red eyes and looks disheveled (The officer does not consider the person’s condition to be because the person overslept and is trying to glam on the go). The person gives a roadside breath sample which indicates the presence of opiates due to the poppy seeds. The driver then is arrested and is forced to provide a blood sample. This person faces potential DUI charges due to their breakfast choice.
There may also be problems if a person has a medicine that is time released. Some medications, for instance, take 15 minutes to kick in. There can be problems when a person has the presence of the medication in his mouth – but has not been absorbed into his system. The person may not be considered impaired while driving but subsequently come under the influence of that substance after being arrested.
In conclusion, this law will make it a lot easier to arrest people who are not normally considered DUI. Be prepared for the number of arrests to increase dramatically.